Figure’s humanoid robots are about to enter the workforce at BMW


Figure has signed its first industrial deal, and is sending its general-purpose humanoid robots off to begin real-world work at BMW’s manufacturing plant in South Carolina. Founder and CEO Brett Adcock talks us by this rubber-meets-road second.

Emerging from stealth mode simply 10 months in the past, Figure has developed its robots at a daunting tempo. The firm had prototypes up and strolling inside a yr of growth, due to a extremely skilled staff – and at a formidable pace, too, in contrast with all the things this aspect of the acrobatic Atlas bot from Boston Dynamics.

A bit of over per week in the past, the corporate introduced one other milestone, releasing video of the Figure 01 robotic autonomously making a espresso in response to a verbal command. Adcock referred to as this a “ChatGPT second” for the corporate, for the reason that robotic found out how you can use that espresso machine by itself after watching a bunch of video demonstrations.

Figure Status Update – AI Trained Coffee Demo

And now, it is delivering on its promise to get the bots on the market doing actual, helpful work ASAP. Under a freshly signed industrial settlement with BMW Manufacturing Co. LLC, Figure has began figuring out preliminary use circumstances at BMW’s Spartanburg plant, and has begun coaching the bots up for a staged deployment on web site.

It’s not the primary time autonomous humanoids have gone to work alongside people – Amazon, for instance, introduced in October that it could begin testing the Digit humanoid, from Agility Robotics, as a “cell manipulator” carrying bins and totes round in warehouse conditions the place there’s not sufficient area for conveyor belts – and older amenities that have not already been custom-designed with flat flooring appropriate for wheeled robots.

But it is of observe right here that Amazon is an investor in Agility, so it shares an curiosity in creating the Digit robotic. Figure’s cope with BMW is only industrial, and that might make it among the many first, if not the primary, deal of its sort.

“It’s potential that there is actual industrial offers on the market that have not been introduced,” Adcock tells us over a video name, “however all I’ve seen are check pilots and issues. So yeah, this can be the primary one, or definitely one of many first ones.”

Useful work in the real world is Figure's sole focus
Useful work in the actual world is Figure’s sole focus


Why BMW? “We actually needed any individual within the automobile manufacturing aspect,” says Adcock. “There’s quite a lot of robotics expertise embedded within the automakers, they usually’ve performed quite a lot of work with humanoids earlier than. Like, Honda with ASIMO, Hyundai owns Boston Dynamics, Tesla with Optimus, Toyota’s Robotics Institute, GM did some work to some time again. You go right into a manufacturing unit like BMW’s, they’ve a ton of robotics expertise – albeit targeted on particular duties slightly than general-purpose.”

“We met the [BMW] staff about 9 months in the past,” he continues. “They’ve built-in quite a lot of robotics into that [Spartanburg] plant. They needed us to assist remedy additional automation points with extra dextrous and cell manipulation. We imagine in that staff and what they’re doing, I feel they’re gonna be actually good for us. We have full govt buy-in in Germany, clearly a very good model … I feel we are able to develop quite a lot of robots below that umbrella.”

Figure 01 Dynamic Walking

Training has already begun in Figure’s labs for the primary duties the 01 will begin making an attempt at BMW, though the 2 corporations are but to announce precisely what it will be doing on the manufacturing unit flooring. Certainly, the 01 is not going to be making coffees.

“We’re physique store work,” he continues, “with sheet steel, and different warehouse logistics work. It’s cell, it will need to the touch issues and transfer them round. We’ve picked our first use case internally, we all know what it’s and we’re working towards on it, however I am unable to expose it.”

“We’ll begin with low portions of robots,” he explains, and we’ve sure milestones we have to hit. If we are able to hit them, we’ll scale up fairly massively over time. But it is very milestone-based, we’ve to show we are able to do helpful work with them. Which is smart, we’ve to verify the robots do properly.”

One factor’s for positive: Adcock plans to maintain the world apprised of the humanoid’s progress because it learns new skills.

“Next week,” he says, “we’ll hopefully reveal [the robot’s behavioral learning capabilities] in actual software work. We’re going to attempt to submit as quickly as we’ve capabilities. Like the espresso video, we’ll simply put it on-line and attempt to preserve constructing in public. That’s my motto for this enterprise, I wish to preserve the general public conscious. We’re going to be tremendous open over the approaching years about what we’re doing and be very frequent about it.”

General-purpose robots are designed in humanoid form so they can directly take over physical tasks performed by humans, using the same tools and access methods
General-purpose robots are designed in humanoid type to allow them to straight take over bodily duties carried out by people, utilizing the identical instruments and entry strategies


So the rubber is beginning to hit the highway for a class of machines many count on will ultimately free humanity from the yoke of bodily work altogether. Humanoids are the identical form as us, they’ll entry the identical areas and use the identical instruments. Early fashions may transfer awkwardly and act slowly and ponderously, however because the AIs underpinning their means to behave on the planet develop and the {hardware} goes by many iterations, they need to have the ability to see, suppose, reply and act quicker, higher and stronger than we are able to.

We’ve spoken to Adcock previously about precisely what the place of people is likely to be in a post-work society wherein our labor and our intelligence have been rendered out of date by robotics and AI. And that is definitely a dialogue available. But we’re now transferring into the troublesome implementation section the place such lofty concepts will must be put apart because the tedious, troublesome work begins of shepherding these nascent humanoids by the method of doing single duties one by one, ensuring they’re correct, resilient and versatile sufficient to be relied on the best way we depend on human workers.

My assumption is that this stage can be excruciating. I ask Adcock what’s his sense on the place humanoid robotics sits proper now on the previous Gartner Hype Cycle. Surely during the last 12 months we have reached that Peak of Inflated Expectations and we’re due for a plunge into the Trough of Disillusionment?

“We’re not even near peaking the Hype Cycle,” says Adcock. “We’re simply attending to lift-off. I feel I can see three to 5 months forward of you, and what’s coming down the pipe within the subsequent yr is gonna make proper now really feel like a warm-up … This area is gonna warmth up, man, buckle up, this yr’s gonna be enjoyable!”

Source: Figure


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